In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Drew Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Colin Hall, click here.
The phrase used to be that "content is king," but as we as marketers are learning, that phrase is more often than not accompanied by an asterisk. Content is royalty, that's for certain, but it's only truly effective when bolstered by some of the other more traditional tenets of marketing. Think of it as a recipe: when prepared in the right proportions, the end product can delight the palate of even the most jaded consumer-and marketing team.
Rather than use an extended cooking metaphor (we're about to talk shoes, after all), let's approach this from a cobbler's point of view. The craftsman du jour is Colin Hall, CMO and GM of International Business at beloved men's shoe and apparel maker Allen Edmonds. After winning a Content Engagement Award at the CMO Club Awards, I thought I'd pick Hall's brain about the tools and materials necessary for today's CMO to craft a well-fitting content marketing campaign. Walk with us below.
Start with the Sole
Hall tells me that he and his team at Allen Edmonds find direction for content by starting first with the marketing message. This sole dictates what kind of path the content itself can take. "We start with marketing themes and then build integrated content to the channel," he says. "For example, a Rediscover America sale around Columbus Day helps position our company's differentiated brand pillar of Made in America." Hall and the marketing team then developed a slew of content in keeping with this home-grown theme: "Made in America" products and stories about the company's heritage in its catalogs; features on their Wisconsin craftspeople over social media; and films to showcase Allen Edmonds' Wisconsin roots.
Try it on for Size
Hall recommends taking your content theme into the real world to round out the campaign. Allen Edmonds brought its "Made in America" pillar to the Parsons School of Design, one of the country's top design schools, and partnered with it to host a shoemaking competition. The winner receives a scholarship and has his or her shoe featured in Allen Edmonds' aforementioned Rediscover America sale. "The competition is fun for the students with a lot of social and PR following," Hall says. "It helps us reach young people and our craftspeople love to work with students."
Polish and Shine
If your company sells a physical product, then the need for good photography is imperative, not just for the catalog, but for all of your content, says Hall. The visual message is just as important as the words that accompany it, if not more. "We partner with three different photographers, each specializing in specific environments to ensure our products always look great," he says. Allen Edmonds has taken almost all of its content production in-house, which Hall recommends doing for stronger control over your message.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
After the content is posted, Hall says that the marketing department at Allen Edmonds meticulously measures the content's performance "so we can optimize [it] over time for continual improvement." His team is light on its feet when it comes to pivoting, and Hall tells me that these adjustments are crucial to keeping the content as relevant and impactful as possible. Call it quality assurance.
Throw in Some Extras
While, in theory, your content should be able to stand on its own feet, a little support from PR can go a long way. Allen Edmonds is helped along by additional content from fashion editors and bloggers, which content-wise is "about the only thing we don't fully control," Hall says. Allen Edmonds keeps the process honest by offering freebies, but without expecting anything in return. "We supply their closets with our seasonal best products and give them access to our photos and line sheets," says Hall, "to help ensure their communication efforts are correct."
The Price of Quality
And finally, Hall touts the importance of paid, targeted support to make your content wardrobe complete. Because it's the age of digital, we're not just talking print ads. Hall has helped Allen Edmonds reach consumers through some cutting-edge methods. "Our new school efforts," he says, "include Display Network advertising targeting new customers. We have enjoyed huge increases in sales through digital media including retargeting, affiliate, email and other channels, but DSP allows us to serve ads to those who look like our primary customers but have never been to our site." And the efforts are paying off. "We're seeing a $5 revenue return for every $1 we spend on DSP customer acquisition." Now, that's a figure that'll get toes tapping.